2016 has been a great year for Hungry Chopsticks. We (finally) introduced our blog, where we have been dedicating much more time and efforts in featuring local Asian food spots. We also established our Hawaii column (btw, it is a permanent establishment since we welcomed Bien to the HC family, in case anyone still confused why Lexie is always in Honolulu...she wishes, though...)
365 days with roughly 730 dining experiences (breakfast or supper for some of us), some impressed us so much while others were, unfortunately, disappointments. Nevertheless, it was hard to choose which ones were our favorites.
However, we made up our minds and appetites. Let's look back at out best dining experience this year. Surprisingly, while Philly and Honolulu are many islands apart, the two restaurants are both relatively new and both have brought excellent quality in food and services for their local patrons.
We hope you like our picks, and Hau'oli Makahiki Hou! (In Hawaiian, it means Happy New Year)
My best friend and I share the same birthday. Every year we always try to celebrate it at some of the most iconic restaurants or ones that offer unique dining experiences, out of town. This year we decided to stay local and checked out Royal Sushi & Izakaya, a moodily lit speakeasy Japanese pub, located in Queen Village.
It can be confusing and hard to find Royal at first because they don’t put up any obvious sign with big letters. If you see a blue door and a Japanese lantern, then you’re there. The ambiance was cozy and adequately upbeat so dinners can still hold conversations. The lighting, though, was extremely dim, putting any of our social media effort to shame.
The menu featured several small, delicious Japanese tapas or snacks that perfectly paired with their assorted drinks menu. While it was hard to see my takoyaki due to lighting fixtures (btw, they were delicious and weren’t those frozen ones you’d get at other snack bars), the food was so good we had our waiter ran countless rounds.
They have the best monkfish liver in Philly, period. Their sashimi is one of the freshest in town. I can’t remember how many times I desperately tried to find where I can go and satisfy my craving for monkfish liver. While Angotei in Costa Mesa still forever has my heart, it’s time to share some of that love for Royal. It was my girls’ first time having it and they absolutely loved its buttery texture.
The service was excellent. Our server was friendly and helpful. I was searching for Japanese plum wine and while the menu didn’t have extensive categories for plum wine like other bars I was used to in Saigon, he knew exactly what I was talking about and helped me relocated it right away.
Rumors have it that Royal Sushi & Izakaya has opened their sushi bar! So check their Instagram out for upcoming news. And cheers to many more trips on Sunday nights or any other night when I need sushi and a good time.
I'm a super picky restaurateur, and a perfect dining experience for me has to comprise numerous elements. The service has to be good, as in the servers seem like they want to be there. The ambiance has to be nice, as in my fellow companions truly enjoy their experiences at the restaurant. Several things aside, food has to be on point, worth the money that I pay for, and pretty enough for me to take pictures or blog about. Otherwise, i will complain, yawn, and rant about it until the moment I step foot outside of the restaurant. With that being said, tough luck for whoever gets to dine with and whichever place happens to have me as a patron. Just kidding, I'm not that bad! (Just half as bad as Ramsey, hehe :P).
Alas, my choice of the #1 dining experience in 2016 is really close to perfection, in my opinion. My pick for the best dining experience I've had in 2016 is Piggy Smalls!
I’ve always been a big fan of The Pig and the Lady (P&L), a fusion Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown. Being Vietnamese, I’m skeptical with those funny fusion Vietnamese foods where they roll pho stuff in a burrito. However, I think P&L got the best pho I’ve ever had outside of Vietnam, and their other items are super creative yet preserving some traditional Vietnamese elements. Therefore, I was pretty excited to try out Piggy Smalls, P&L’s second location in Ward. Instead of the formal dining experience at P&L, Piggy Smalls is more laid-back, family-style, and hipster.
I like how they utilize technology to help the patrons keep track of their waitlist status. One thumb up. The menu is small, yet there is still a variety of dishes to choose from: a very well-designed menu, since keeping the menu small would make it easier to switch around items from times to times.
Everybody around me seems happy eating their food and my servers were attentive yet friendly. That’s all I need for a perfect dining experience.
I’m looking forward to visiting Piggy Smalls for more life-changing meals in 2017. Namaste.